News Archives

ERDG Volunteers Assist in Y2K Shorebird Management Study at Prime Hook NWR

May 19, 2000

The USFWS, Region 5 Division of Refuges and Wildlife is undertaking a cooperative study with the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center to help identify the contribution and management potential for migrating shorebirds on several National Wildlife Refuges along or near the Delaware Bay and coastal areas of the Atlantic Ocean. Sixteen National Wildlife Refuges from Maine to Virginia will be participating in this planned two-year study to include the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge located in Milton, Delaware.

This large-scale experiment has been designed to evaluate the part each participating National Wildlife Refuge within the Northeast Region makes in providing food and habitat resources for spring migrant shorebirds. Therefore, only the spring migrational period will be examined at this time (April to mid-June). The objectives of this study are to:

  1. identify the region-wide contribution that individual refuges make toward the shorebird resource along the Atlantic Flyway;
  2. determine the most effective and efficient management actions for various species and guilds of shorebirds which are determined to have regional priority; and
  3. to make better wetland impoundment management decisions that ensures the provision of quality shorebird habitat on an annual basis for these unique and wonderful globe trotting migrants!

Recognized factors that influence shorebird use of impounded wetlands include the following four habitat variables:

  1. shallow water depths,
  2. slow drawdown rates during migrational periods,
  3. reduced vegetation density, and
  4. invertebrate food availability.

Information about shorebird use and the relation to these habitat variables will be monitored in a two-year study. Data collection will include weekly shorebird surveys (both count and activity surveys), multiple wetland jaunts to collect water depths, measure marsh plant density and wetland vegetation cover types plus poking in marsh mud to count and record what marvelous mudflat meals visiting shorebirds are eating at each refuge.

Such a large-scaled experiment will provide improved information to make better science-based management decisions within the Atlantic Flyway to address concerns of declining population levels of shorebirds. Equally important, is the opportunity of having public participation in such an endeavor. The USFWS is engaged in getting more of the public to understand and participate in activities on “their” refuge lands. This study is one such golden opportunity that will help refuge staffers fulfill the refuge system mission of “working with others to conserve, enhance, and protect fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.” –Annabella Larsen biologist USFWS